Ahmed Sofa: A unique craftsman of perception

Dhrubo Sadiq | Published: 00:00, Jun 30,2020


Ahmed Sofa

An influential thinker of his time, Ahmed Sofa has always been in dialogue with his contemporaries, besides the retinue of emerging writers who surrounded him, debating and reflecting on the contentious issues of politics, society and the arts. However, readers who had the opportunity to wade through Ahmed Sofa's novel are familiar with his unique technique that de-emphasises dialogues as his stream of narrative seems enough to tell the tale. This power of weaving words to tell the tale is a signature of Sofa's authorship. Additionally, nowhere in the novels are there any names of heroes and heroines. Yet the chemistry between them is not the least bit difficult to feel.

Today, June 30, is the 77th birth anniversary of one of the most powerful writers of Bengali literature, Ahmed Sofa. Antinomian in spirit, Ahmed Sofa continuously had redrawn the map of the intellectual world of Bangladesh. He even predicted the plights that would befall Bangladesh due to the failure of intellectuals.

Sofa, in his essay Buddhibrittir Natun Binyas (A New Dispersion of Intellectualism, 1972), written immediately after the independence of Bangladesh, exposed the naked form of opportunism some intellectuals began to resort to.

He was only 26 years old when his book Buddhibrittir Natun Binyas was published. When the bold and polemical writings of 26-year-old Ahmed Sofa were continuously published in the daily Ganakantha immediately after independence, intellectuals were in awe. Every day they would remain alert of what this lone voice of reason would write about the state of affairs and even on them.

Since the partition of Bengal in 1947, till the liberation war of 1971, the book make a logical attempt at parsing turn of events and the poverty of the intellectuals who chose to acquiesce rather than speaking truth to power.

Buddhibrittir Natun Binyas is highly acclaimed for its prophetic insights into the future political and cultural development of the newly-independent country, though Badruddin Umar, one of the prominent commentators from the left, said that Sofa left the question of class unexplored.

Sofa’s each of novel is unique in its cadence and content and the element of novelty in each also makes reading worthwhile. The creation of Sofa's character and storytelling with its subtle emotional, cultural and socio-economic context was outstanding.

Just as Sofa's genuine love and affection for trees, flowers and birds has been revealed, so has Sofa's philosophy-belief-thought-consciousness and, most importantly, his philosophy of survival. It is not difficult for people to discover Ahmed Sofa here at his most earnest, with confusion at various levels of belief, not sticking to any work for a long time, or constantly engaging in new bizarre tasks (in the conventional sense), a sedentary lifestyle and political ideology, it is known by reading 'Puspa, Briksha, and Bihanga Puran'. As Chafa himself never tidied up in his clothes, he considered himself a man of clay, so he worked in the field with his body and clothes, becoming a farmer. Due to which he did not take long to recognise the Sultan of Narail. Ahmed Sofa was a close friend of the famous Bengali painter SM Sultan. Both were bohemian or nomadic in spirit, both remained unmarried and never pursued fame, fortune or other materialistic goals. Ahmed Sofa himself has expressed doubts whether two more such personalities can be found in 100 years.

Gavi Bittanta is considered to be the most powerful novel in Bengali language, especially written in the context of teachers’ monopolies in the universities of Bangladesh. Gavi Bittanta is used as a reference when it comes to university politics. In this novel, Sofa mocks the whole society through some internal events of the university, duplicity of some influential people. In the novel Gavi Bittanta, Sofa says in a sharply sarcastic way, 'The oldest and most prestigious university of our country has taken such a termagant look in recent times, it is not at all safe to live here with one’s honour intact. Here and there the roar of the procession made ears tingle. If the police get involved in a gunfight between the two factions of teachers, it only turns into a gunfight between three parties. It will take a long time for the professional butchers in the Thatari Bazar to master the skill of the gentle boys here to cut off the limbs of their friends with a Chinese axe.’

Ahmed Sofa was born on 30 June 1943 in village Gachbaria of Hashimpur union in Chandanaish upazila of Chattogram district. His father was Hedayet Ali and mother Asia Khatun.

Ahmed Sofa was a storyteller, novelist, poet and public intellectual at the same time.

Sofa's various contributions to Bengali literature include a translation of Goethe's Faust: Part I, done in 12 years. On publication of that volume, Ahmed Sofa was awarded a fellowship in Germany to brush up his elementary German. Although he made it there in 1986, Ahmed Sofa returned without completing it. We, nonetheless, owe his three fine lectures broadcast over the Deutsche Welle radio to this trip. In these lectures, he paid his highest tribute to the great laureate and compared him with Rabindranath Tagore, wrote Sofa’s admirer, Salimullah Khan.

On the question of identity, sociality and politics he gave special attention to the formation of national identity and the changing patterns of social structures in his writings. Sofa's literature is radiant with unique expressions and innate sense of humor. At different times, in different contexts, Sofa has written many relevant but interesting reflections which are worth quoting.

A writer by occupation, Sofa wrote 18 non-fiction books, 8 novels, 4 collections of poems, 1 collection of short stories, and several books in other genres.

Surya Tumi Sathi (Sun, You Are My Companion, 1967) was Sofa's first novel and first book as well. Besides, Omkar, Ekjan Ali Kenaner Utthan Patan, Maranbilash, Alat Chakra, Gabhi Bittanta, Ardhek Nari Ardhek Ishwari, Pushpa Briksha ebang Bihanga Puran are his well-known novels.

Written in a distinctive poetic style, Sofa's Ekti Prabin Bater Kachhe Prarthana (Prayer to an Ancient Banyan Tree, 1977) envisions a Bangladesh free from poverty, exploitation and injustice. He has to his credit four anthology of poems, namely Jallad Samay (Time, the Hangman, 1975), Ekti Prabin Bater Kachhe Prarthana (Prayer to an Ancient Banayan Tree, 1977), Lenin Ghumobe Ebar (Lenin Will Sleep Now, 1999).

More about:

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email